ATF to Publish ‘Factors for Classifying Guns with Stabilizing Braces’

Editors Notes: See related actions you can take & brace manufacture SB Tactical’s comments: ‘Proposed ATF Brace Regulations Nothing More Than Registration Scheme.’

SIG SAUER Pistol Stabilizing Brace
Leak Shows ATF to Publish “Factors for Classifying Guns with Stabilizing Braces”, IMG SIG SAUER Pistol Stabilizing Brace

U.S.A. -( Documents leaked to several media outlets Wednesday show the Justice Department is moving to publish in the Federal Registry on Friday, December 18th, 2020 a document titled “Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces” ( embedded below). Note the document itself is not a ban on pistol braces but it does lay the groundwork for extensive restrictions on what firearms can have the Stabilizing Brace accessories in the typically convoluted and vague ATF fashion.

Not a Pistol Brace Ban…Yet

As AmmoLand has reported, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) spoke with the Biden transition team. Regular readers of Ammoland News were aware that ATF’s top two priorities were 80% receivers & frames, and pistol braces. In recent days the ATF has moved on 80% frame kits, and now the ATF is issuing a “guidance letter” on how they “Objectively” plan to judge all makes and models of pistol stabilizing brace accessories #ad on firearms.

The first thing that jumps out in this document is page 12 that says, “the contents of this document do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way“!? (Emphasis added for clarity.)

Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces, No Force of Law
Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces, No Force of Law

Then we get into the “Objective” Parts.

The ATF says that large caliber firearms equipped with a brace are impractical to fire because of recoil of the caliber of the round. Yet, the ATF fails to define or set parameters for which rounds would constitute disqualifying calibers, leaving it up to interpretation.

Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces, Weight & Caliber
Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces, Weight & Caliber, Page 6

Another factor is the overall weight of the gun. The ATF says that heavy pistols equipped with a brace are “likely to be considered a rifle or shotgun.” Seems the ATF believes that heavy firearms are impractical for braces. The ATF also states that if a gun is equipped with a drum magazine or other magazines holding multiple (number not specified) rounds, it will make the gun too heavy to be considered a pistol when a brace is attached. What is disturbing is that the ATF does not state how many rounds change the property of the firearm.

Again, the ATF doesn’t specify a weight, or which calibers would be unacceptable for a braced pistol.

The ATF also considered the length of pull of firearms, and under this new guidance document, most if not all braces equipped on AR15 or AK47 type pistols would fail this proposed test. If the brace uses a spacer or other buffer attachment found on a rifle, then the ATF will consider the firearm a rifle or shotgun. Once again the ATF doesn’t give specifics leading many to wonder what type of gun private citizens would have in their possession.

This uncertainty is like giving the police the power to give you a speeding ticket without you having the right to know what the speed limit is on a given road.

Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces, Length of Pull
Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces, Length of Pull

Additionally, ATF states that if a brace’s design is similar to a known stock, then that brace itself would be considered a stock. If the pistol has rifle sights, it will turn it into a rifle or shotgun if equipped with a brace. Bipods on a firearm will also turn the pistol into a rifle if it has a brace attached. All braces are similar to stock designs. Does the ATF say that all stabilizing braces fail this test?

The ATF says that each firearm must be examined on a “case-by-case” basis. Except with all the caveats the agency added, it seems unlikely that any rifle-caliber-pistol would pass muster and each would be found to be a short barrel rifle if only one of the criteria is needed to be failed.

Suspicious Announcement Timing

The Department of Justice is opening up a two-week public comment period over the proposed changes in the Federal Registry on Friday, December 18th, 2020 ending on January 1st, 2021. The timing of the narrow 14 day comment period with the number of holidays is suspect when most of America is away from work celebrating the Holidays with family. Some believe the timing a week before Christmas was chosen on purpose.

According to the leaked document, owners will have four choices in the eyes of the DOJ and ATF; They can destroy the braced firearm, change out all the prohibited parts converting the weapon into something else, turn over the gun to the government, or register their guns as SBRs in accordance with the National Firearms Act (NFA).

Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces, Compliance Options
Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces, Compliance Options

FREE Tax Stamp = Biggest Gun Registration In History

The letter states that for gun owners who acquired the devices in “good faith” the government would exempt firearms owners wishing to register them as NFA weapons from paying the $200 NFA tax stamp because of the policy change. But their guns will be forever an NFA item, registered with the government and subject to all the restrictions that come with having an NFA weapon. This would be the biggest gun registration in history with estimates of 4 million to 6 million stabilizing braces in public hands in the USA.

Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces, NFA Tax Exemption
Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces, NFA Tax Exemption

It is unclear just how the ATF would handle the onslaught of tax stamp applications and how it would affect current wait times. If only 25% of brace owners chose this option the ATF would be flooded with one million-plus submissions. The ATF staff would be overwhelmed. Each ATF employee would be faced with over 100,000 applications in addition to the current NFA application load. This backlog would create an even bigger artificial backlog for SBRs, SBSs, silencers, and machine guns. Many gun-rights advocates believe this roadblock to be intentional.

Under the proposed guidelines ATF agents will have discretion on enforcing the new regulations for a while to allow gun owners to come into compliance with the new standards, but as highlighted above, the document doesn’t do much to specify the standards. Many gun-rights advocates including Gun Owners of America’s Senior Vice President, Erich Pratt, sees these moves as further infringements on the gun rights of Americans.

“If there were any lingering questions as to how far ATF has gone off into the deep end, this document settles it,” Pratt told AmmoLand News. “The ATF is the embodiment the word ‘infringement,’ and GOA is prepared to combat its actions at every turn. GOA will rally the grassroots to fight these regulations, and if they eventually go into effect, we will commence immediate legal action to protect gun owners. This ATF is simply out of control. This agency — which shouldn’t exist in the first place — is not held accountable for its actions, and the honest gun owners who are being turned into criminals are paying the price.”

“The ATF Failed Miserably”

The document’s stated goal is to clear up confusion around pistol braces and let gun owners and manufacturers know what is legal. If that was the actual goal then the ATF failed miserably. The big take away from the letter is that there is no way to know if you created an NFA item. If you find out that you did create one then that means that it is too late and you need to register your firearms or are likely to face charges in the future. In our opinion, this charge of rules is a blatant attempt to create a gun registry through legal trickery.

Top industry representatives are aware of the document and are pledging to follow up.

NSSF has long urged ATF to provide a clear, objective standard for stabilizing arm braces for industry to understand and apply (self-classify) so that thy manufacturer and sell legal firearms for consumers to purchase from licenses retailers after a background. NSSF is carefully reviewing the notice and seeking input from our members We will submit public comment in a timely manner. ~ Lawrence G. Keane, Senior Vice President for Government & Public Affairs, NSSF

Beginning Friday the public can leave comments at Objective Factors for Classifying Weapons with Stabilizing Braces.

Stay tuned to for all the latest information on this developing story.

About John Crump

John is a NRA instructor and a constitutional activist. John has written about firearms, interviewed people of all walks of life, and on the Constitution. John lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and sons and can be followed on Twitter at @crumpyss, or at

John Crump

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Ansel Hazen

WHO in their right mind is going to just hop on that govt web site and let their IP be captured when leaving a comment.

Charlie Foxtrot

There is something called VPN!

Boris Badenov



How do they go about exempting a tax enacted by Congress? Could they exempt us from the federal income tax too? What’s wrong with these people? Does the NFA authorize them to exempt people from paying the tax?


Ok, lets make a point. How many SBR’s have been used in crimes? I have never heard the news say in a mass shooting a SBR was used today. it is always an Assault Rifle. I have never heard the democrap politicians cry about SBR, it’s always Assault Rifle even when it was a pistol or a shot gun. So WTF. I think we have way to many rules and restrictions regarding many things not even counting guns and referring to life in general. I am tired of being penalized for what other people do or have done. Just because… Read more »

Last edited 1 year ago by musicman44mag

So is my S&W 500 a rifle???


If “gun violence ” is an “epidemic,” there’s no reason your revolver can’t be a rifle. C’mon man.


They have pistols with barrels that are 24 inches long and they used to put them on a stick to fire them. I guess that was a rifle.


– Depends. What does your S&W self identify as?

My Yugoslav Tokarev is clearly a high capacity assault weapon. Has 9 round mags instead of the 8 rounds in an original TT33. Clearly it is a weapon of war as the TT33 saw extensive use in WW2. It fires little-high velocity (for a pistol) bullets which “super penetrate” (ie icepick) – somewhat like the more modern FN 5.7 but less extreme.

My Tok self identifies as a safe queen who likes to party by playing as a range toy. Your S&W is a far better choice for bear country.

Jeremy B.

Any high school english teacher would excoriate the author for the use of the term “objective”. What a farce.

Jeremy B.

If it’s to heavy it becomes an SBR, but to heavy for who? A wounded vet, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Arnold Palmer, Tom Arnold?

If no exact weight and length is stated then it’s SUBJECTIVE not objective. And that number is arbitrary, based on someone’s subjective opinion.


I’ve got a better idea that will save those poor overworked underappreciated ATFers a lot of time and grief. Take SBRs off NFA.


Apparently the ATF is willing to waive the $200 registration fee for SBR’s. So if a braced pistol is registered as an SBR can you then put a real stock and a full length foregrip on it? I assume so. Asking for a friend…


Remember nothing in the letter is legally binding. They may say that they (ATF) will waive the tax and that no one registering will be prosecuted. What is to stop some eager prosecutor from getting ahold of the list and making a name for themselves by prosecuting the whole list. The legislature makes the law with approval of the xecutiv3 branch, ATF cannot legally change any rules. As for a stock, unless they create a legal subclass of SBR – once it is legally an SBR you can do whatever you like… After notifying ATF of course. Just switching uppers… Read more »


And don’t forget… There has never been any example whatsoever throughout history where a people has been forced to register their weapons where that registry was then later used to confiscate those very weapons..

Nope, never, not once…. Boy it would be darn inconvenient if that had ever happened!


You are correct, I mis-spoke; I shall put myself in a timeout.


Lets get to the quick of it. Part of the rules is that any other accessory to hold the weapon other than one hand hold makes it a rifle. So, If you have an AR15 pistol and you have the stock barrel shroud over the barrel that you can hold onto, it becomes a second place to grip the weapon therefore it is an SBR. Ok even though that may be considered true lets go here. I am disabled. I am documented with three different problems with my hands two of which are crippling. So because you are the government,… Read more »


I say, leave musicman44mag alone. Remove SBRs from the purview of the NFA of 1934 and the government won’t have to fret over what is a pistol and what is a rifle. Let musicman44mga shoot whatever he prefers without asking for permission, without filling out strange paperwork, without waiting a long time, and without paying an extra $200.

Why is the government so mean?


Thank you.


The people on here that disagree with me are the ones that know I have an excellent legal point and don’t want my side of the issue to be heard because it is valid and may force the ATF to change it’s stance or requirements. Thanks for the vote.

I stay armed for a safer America.


Long barrel, short barrel, you would think the ATFE would want firearms to be safer and more accurate, rather than how they think it looks. Why is it people who know nothing about a subject and are unelected, are always put in a position to regulate it?

Last edited 1 year ago by Cruiser
Lance H

ATF has backed off:


Under ATF scheme, gun owners would be required to decide for themselves whether a particular setup qualifies as a pistol. Incorrectly guess pistol and you are exposed to prosecution. Guess SBR and you’ll always be needlessly registered under NFA and subject to all those rules. So far they offer zero concrete directions.


I looked up why the SBR law. It’s because it is easier to conceal. Back in the 30s when people wore overcoats and this law was made, I could see where that might be the case with the gangsters and all but I don’t think that applies today. In addition it is wrong to ASSume that just because I own a AR or AK pistol that I am going to use it illegally. So people that are rich that own European cars that I cant even spell that can do 240 mph are going to drive them that fast, right?… Read more »


It’s not the “rich.” It’s the Totalitarians. The Totalitarians want you to think the “rich” are bad. They need you to think the “rich” are bad. They can’t make their argument for forced wealth redistribution (an essential component of all forms of Totalitarianism) unless you are convinced the “rich” are bad. Are some bad people “rich?” Of course. The SBR laws came about because they wanted to outlaw handguns. As part of that legislation, they had to have something in there that prevented people from making rifles and shotguns small, like handguns. Some level-headed folks were successful at removing the… Read more »

AZ Lefty

Another of T-Rumps payback to gun owners becasue he lost

Boris Badenov

How about a more likely idea, the bureaucrats know that their new master want’s them to destroy the 2A and they are getting a jump on it to save their jobs. Enjoy slavery, you’ll deserve it.

AZ Lefty

Howe about Sheeple like you break free of you echo Chamber! T-Rump is still POTUS, BATF is under T-Rumps DOJ and T-Rump was the one who gave BATF the greenlight to do things like this when he banned Bump Stocks.

But you go ahead and be a good sheeple bleating what you are told to say by those who control you!